2016 BSA Premier League Grand Final Wrap Up
The sun has set on an exciting and successful Premier League season in Basketball SA's Flagship competition. The Champagne corks have been popped and the Nets have been trimmed by the victorious Norwood Flames for their second consecutive Ladies title and the Southern Tigers Men, to claim their maiden Championship.
A large contingent of Southern Tigers supporters got to Titanium Arena early to secure their vantage points. They settled in to watch the girls and formed a very healthy crowd number with some Norwood fans and their vocal West Adelaide counterparts.
Nerves and pressure were evident for both the Flames and Bearcats as they strove to gain the upper-hand and break the defense of their opponent. The game took a similar path to the 2nd Semi Final for both sides and many experienced players struggled to make baskets.
However, it was the Flames experience and versatility that got them across the line. Jessica Good (17 pts/10 boards) and Jess Foley (11pts/12reb) both registered Double-Doubles. They were well supported by rising star Chelsea Brooks (14pts/9reb). Dual Halls Medalist and Serial Championship winner, Jess Mahony (10pts/4reb/6 assists) added the Grand Final MVP trophy to her trophy cabinet, albeit a little controversially, as many at the venue had her on 6 fouls when she left the court.
Tim Brenton tried many different combinations on court, but to little effect. All of his players got good court time and exposure to pressure that will hold them in good stead for the future. Unfortunately they couldn't give Trudy Holland the ultimate send off in her 150th and final Premier League game. They did lead early on and briefly challenged in the second and third quarters, but were unable replicate their heroics from July when they defeated Norwood at Marden.
Tahlia Fejo was well down on her usual contribution, but her future is bright and she will learn much and take plenty away from this defeat. Teonna Campbell (11pts/6 steals/4reb) led the stats for West. Sky Langenbrinck (9pts/7reb) and Stana Zecevic (4pts/8reb) tried hard all game to keep the Bearcats in the contest, but in the end the misses counted against them too much and the Flames ran out comfortable 18 point victors.
Norwood have proved over the past 3 years that they have what it takes to win, with only 5 losses in that period. Their First 5 are very good, and have rarely needed to go past two bench players. West has quietly gone about their business and their time will come soon with their young talent set to light up the Premier League in the coming years.
As the Bearcat supporters made their way out the Sturt fans began to filter in and fill their spots. Much hype surrounded the Men's Grand Final and the Adelaide 36er's Match Race between Southern Tigers Mitch Creek and Sturt Sabres Daniel Johnson. Many experts thought the key to defeating the highly fancied Southern Tigers team laid with being able to stop one of either Creek or Alex Starling. But the Cream always rises to the top and really good players rise to occasion.
For a long period of the first half, Sturt were able to keep Starling quiet. They put a lot of pressure on him and Creek, but paid the price for paying very little respect to Jordan Dodman (15pts; 7 from 8). Dodman opened up the scoring after only 19 seconds in. He just casually strolled through the key-way for the easiest lay-up. The complete lack of physical defensive pressure on Dodman continued for the rest of the game and, as a result, his scoring return was more than double his usual contribution.
Todd Davies (15pts), also stepped up. His golden arm from long range, hit 5 out of 6 from beyond the arc. Like the Flames in the Ladies Grand Final, Dean Nyberg got the most out of his starting 5, with only two bench players getting reasonable court time. Southern controlled the game when it mattered. They dominated the Boards (54-41 rebounds) and when Paul Rigoni called a Timeout in the 2nd quarter, it gave Nyberg a chance to reset too. At the time Sabres were up by 7, Creek made both free throws when play resumed. This is also when Alex Starling (19pts/14reb) began to exert his influence on the game and Southern went to the break up by one.
In the 3rd stanza, the Tigers opened up the throttle. Mitch and Alex put on a clinic and scored 20 between themselves. They exposed some weaknesses in the Sabres and their offense was often rushed. Sturt didn't register a score in the final 2 minutes of the 3rd period while Southern stretched their lead by a further 8 points.
Dean Nyberg, maybe a rookie coach at this level, but it wasn't his first Rodeo. He sent a strong message to his players and urged them to finish it off, and that they did. Southern continued to press home the advantage but with only a few minutes left, Nyberg emptied his bench and gave all of his players a taste of the action.
For Sturt, many of Paul Rigoni's men were well down and he didn't get what he needed from his experienced players. A lot ended with 4 fouls and many were unnecessarily committed as some tempers began to fray. Issac White and Jacob Rigoni will be infinitely better for the experience and both look destined for much higher honours.
Fittingly the new Adelaide 36er's Captain, Mitch Creek (29pts/14reb) was crowned King of the Court and showed 36er's Coach Joey Wright, who was on hand to witness his domination, that he is ready for his new role.
Much debate will reign over the summer about Southern Tigers and their resurgence. It brought people to the game and is growing rapidly below O'halloran Hill.
Some key appointments within Basketball SA have paid dividends and the game is once again becoming popular.
The rest of the Premier League has someone different to chase in 2017 and I for one, am looking forward to it. Enjoy the summer and get behind our Lightning girls and the 36er's. Many Double Headers at the Arena when the WNBL and NBL seasons get underway in October.